Two Travellers and Two Canadian Jewish Wests.

Author:Menkis, Richard
 
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Few Jews traveling to Canada used the 1921 route of Joseph Herman Hertz (1872-1946), proud bearer of the title "Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire." Most Jews who migrated from England (often via the United States) between 1759 and 1881, and the Eastern European Jews who came in waves between 1881 and 1925, arrived in Canada's Atlantic ports. (1) Hertz, however, landed on Canada's Pacific coast, beginning the last leg of his "pastoral tour of the Jewish communities in the 'British Overseas Dominions.'" After he departed from England on October 21, 1920, he travelled to South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand before arriving in Victoria, British Columbia on July 4, 1921. During his time in the Canadian West, he met members of the Jewish community, held discussions with mayors and premiers, and delivered addresses in prestigious non-Jewish settings such as the local Canadian Clubs. After Hertz's return to Great Britain, he further spread the word of the tour by delivering public lectures on his voyage, followed by a published account. (2)

It is unlikely that Rabbi Yeshaye Horowitz (1883-1977), who lived in Winnipeg between 1923 and 1953, ever had an audience with a government official, or knew the address of Winnipeg's local Canadian Club. Certainly neither of these distinctions appears in the sefer--a book on Jewish sacred themes--that he published several years after his arrival in Winnipeg. In the book, he provides some details on his move to North America, and recounts three separate trips he made to the Jewish settlements in twenty-two cities, towns, and farm settlements in Western Canada. The description of these trips emphasizes the religious institutions in the region. (3)

There are obvious differences between these two travellers. Hertz came through the region on a worldwide tour, while Horowitz, after moving to North America, travelled on several occasions from his home in Winnipeg to cities and towns in the Canadian West. Nevertheless, a detailed examination of these travellers and their texts offers insight into two phenomena. First, it builds on current research on rabbinic emissaries and points to lesser-known examples of communal figures who uprooted themselves in order to advocate or reinforce transnational Jewish identities. Second, it deepens our understanding of what has become known in North American historiography as the "many wests." (4) This literature has looked to undermine the hegemonic Anglo-Celtic Christian narrative of "how-the-West-was-won" by illustrating how many groups, with different aspirations, settled the West. However, this nuancing must go further. In this paper we give examples of the "many Wests" within one group.

Prior to discussing what is in the narratives, it should be noted what is not in them. The Canadian effort to "open up" the Prairies with Europeans not only ignored the First Nations and Metis who lived in these areas, but actively displaced them from their traditional ways of life. It prevented them from acquiring homesteads, and private property off the reserves, until 1951. (5) As historian David Koffman has argued in his work on Jewish traders with First Nations groups in North America, the Jews who were looking to emigrate from Europe became actors unwitting, but actors nonetheless--in the global economic trends and nation-building agenda that dispossessed First Nations. (6) Although there were some remarkable interwar Canadian Jewish literary appreciations of First Nations, most specifically of Tekahionwake (E. Pauline Johnson), these were the exceptions. (7) First Nations did not figure prominently in the Jewish imagination. Certainly, they did not appear in the two Jewish narratives examined in this essay.

On the Road

A close examination of the narratives by Hertz and Horowitz sheds some light on a subgroup of Jewish travellers--those who travelled for religious purposes. While it is certain that Hertz travelled in some comfort, his "pastoral tour" was nevertheless an arduous voyage. So why make it at all? Because he knew the ideals that he was attempting to promote--an acculturated Anglo-Jewish Orthodoxy--and the emotions he was trying to foster--such as loyalty and respect for the person and office of the chief rabbi--do not just appear in various settings. Like commodities, ideals and emotions are a result of interactions, either indirectly (by correspondence or newer technologies) or--as in the case of Hertz's tour--by personal contact. As we shall see, Horowitz saw the Jewish emigration from Europe as evidence of divine providence. While other rabbis may have counseled against travel to the impious America---and hence ignored the divine plan--Horowitz instead chose to join and encourage the migrants to the New World. His theological outlook also informed the descriptions of the Jews whom he encountered on his trips in the Canadian West, and his aspirations for them.

These are examples of two officials travelling for religious and communal purposes. Hertz's pastoral tour and Horowitz's travels in Western Canada are variants of a better known phenomenon: the wandering emissary for Jewish institutions in the Land of Israel, most notably the sbaliah de-rabbanan (or, in its acronym, sbadar). The study of these officials has attracted renewed scholarly interest. In the mid-twentieth century, the sbadar was the subject of a bulky volume, which had as its (Zionist) working assumption that diaspora Jewry was historically sustained by its ties to the Land of Israel, and the sbadaraim are one example of how that relationship continued through the ages. (8) Shortly after this book appeared, Jacob Katz challenged its uncritical working assumption, seeing a more dynamic relationship between diaspora and center that changed over time. (9) Recently, Matthias Lehmann turned his interest to the phenomenon of emissaries. He has shown how in the early modern period they were actors in a complex network that may have been about support for institutions in the Land of Israel, but in fact these emissaries were largely directed out of Istanbul and promoted a diasporic pan-Judaism. (10) Hertz and Horowitz, in their travels and texts, also created a web of relationships that attempted to bind the region to something much wider, whether an Anglo-Jewish diaspora or an extension of traditional Jewish life rooted in Eastern Europe.

David Malkiel has also studied the shadar and has argued that the relationship between the emissary and the local community should be understood as an exchange. Thus, in order to understand the phenomenon, we must discern what each side is giving and getting in return. (11) Methodologically, an examination of both sides of the exchange requires moving from the macro perspective of the overall concerns of the tour to a focused analysis of what happens at the communal level. In the case of Hertz and Horowitz, we will focus on what the rabbis were "offering" to the communities in terms of prestige, and what they hoping to "get in return" in terms of leadership of the Jewish community and renown. Because of the limited sources it is not simple to view the exchange from the vantage point of the community members. We can nevertheless offer some evidence and some inference on communal perspectives, especially in the reactions to Hertz's trip, which had a high profile and attracted attention in the press.

Two of "Many Wests"

The recent historical writing of the North American West has adopted the concept of "many Wests," and abandoned the heroic--and, concomitantly, exclusivist--narrative of pioneers of European descent clearing the land and "civilizing" the West. (12) In the last few decades, studies of the Canadian West have described and analyzed the forgotten or suppressed narratives of marginalized groups. One recent collection of essays includes studies of First Nations as farmers, women on farms, the interrelations of railways and racism in the lives of Chinese who made the Prairies their home, as well as essays on Metis and Ukrainian literature. (13) Building upon work done thirty years ago on the variety of visions of a "New Jerusalem" in the Canadian West, Frances Swryipa published in 2010 the almost lyrical Storied Landscapes: Ethno-religious Identity and the Canadian Prairies. (14)

These works often include essays or sections on Jewish hopes for the Canadian West. However, they have not gathered and analyzed the heterogeneous texts of a heterogeneous community. Thus far, the research into Jewish aspirations has focused on secular ideologies, especially the leftist politics of the farmer Michael Usiskin and the socialist Zionism that was so central to Canadian Jews, including Jews in Western Canada. (15) This essay proposes to deepen the study of these "many Wests" by examining Jewish aspirations based on two religious outlooks. The two travellers encouraged what already had taken root in the region and presented the religious ideals they deemed worthy of further emulation. Although the terms lack some nuance, we can call one the outlook of an Orthodox "accommodationist" with modernity, and the other of a "resister." (16) Although the occasional eruption did reveal the tensions between the two outlooks, the differences between them are largely implicit.

J.H. Hertz and His Pastoral Tour

J.H. Hertz's "pastoral tour" came after a long history of ties between Great Britain's Jews and other Jews of the English-speaking world. In their examinations of Jewries in the nineteenth century, both Arthur Kiron and Adam Mendelsohn have shown how the English-language Jewish press of Great Britain was read in the United States, and vice-versa. (17) Adam Mendelsohn has also demonstrated how rabbis trained in Great Britain found their way to North America and other Anglophone Jewish communities, and then engaged in multilateral discussions of Jewish life. (18) However, it should also be noted that there were ways...

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